If you are suffering mentally from the after-effects of an accident or other traumatic event that was someone else’s fault, you may be able to claim compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The following PTSD compensation claims guide looks at the circumstances in which you can claim for PTSD, the different types of PTSD claim, the requirements that must be met, how to claim and how much compensation you could get.
Can you claim compensation for PTSD?
If an accident or other traumatic event has left you with serious psychiatric damage, you may be able to claim compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is a recognised psychiatric disorder, typically caused by a stressful and traumatic experience such as a motoring or other type of accident. Aside from being emotionally draining, it can affect your work life, family life and social life, where a PTSD compensation claim could cover both the emotional and financial impacts of your injury, and help with your recovery.
Mental suffering lasting more than a month could be a potential sign of post-traumatic stress disorder, so it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible from a personal injury specialist so that you can be independently assessed by an appropriate medical expert. Symptoms such as anxiety and sleeplessness are natural after a traumatic event or accident, and will usually disappear within a matter of a few short weeks, but when they continue beyond a month or so, they might be classified as PTSD. The NHS estimate that PTSD will develop in about one in every three people who endure a traumatic experience.
What are the different types of PTSD claims?
Post-traumatic stress disorder can often follow after being involved in, or even witnessing, a single traumatic event. It usually starts straight after the event, but symptoms sometimes take several weeks, months or years to appear. In other cases, PTSD can develop during prolonged involvement in an ongoing traumatic situation or experience. Many different events can cause PTSD, which is more common than most people may realise, including:
- Road traffic accidents: every year thousands of people suffer PTSD from accidents on the road, including motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. Settlement for compensation is often reached when it is clear that the accident was a result of someone else’s negligence.
- Accidents at work: serious workplace accidents can leave long-term psychological symptoms that are often diagnosed as PTSD, where a claim can be made if the employer is in breach of their statutory duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their staff.
- Military accidents: as people who work in the armed forces face the threat of serious injury or death on a regular basis, PTSD is common amongst military personnel. Despite the principle of combat immunity, where military personnel cannot claim damages for the effects of their day-to-day job, they can claim if the Ministry of Defence was negligent in some way. This could include where reasonable precautions were not taken to avoid serious injury or appropriate support was not offered to deal with traumatic scenarios.
- Medical negligence: serious psychiatric harm can often flow from mistakes in medical treatment resulting in serious or life-changing physical injuries.
Although PTSD will often be suffered in combination with serious physical injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder can also occur on its own, for which compensation can still be claimed. This could be where, for example, you have been in a car accident but not suffered any physical injury but had an extreme psychological reaction to the threat of harm. It could also be, for example, where you have experienced the harrowing death of loved one.
What are the most common symptoms of PTSD?
People who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder might experience a whole range of different symptoms, with some symptoms more prevalent than others. If you are suffering from one or more of the following symptoms, you may be experiencing PTSD:
- Flashbacks and nightmares: reliving the traumatic event, either awake or asleep, is one of the most common symptoms of PTSD. You may also suffer from night terrors, sleep-walking and night sweats, and may even experience physical symptoms such as pain and trembling when you find yourself re-experiencing the traumatic incident;
- Sleep disturbance: difficulty sleeping is also a very common symptom of PTSD, where you may experience problems both getting to sleep and staying asleep, typically exacerbated by nightmares, night terrors and night sweats etc
- Panic and constant anxiety: these are classic symptoms of hyper-arousal, which can affect basic functions such as pulse rate, breathing, and bowel and/or bladder control. It can also sometimes cause chest pains, nausea and headaches. Hyper-arousal is a primary symptom of PTSD and occurs when your body kicks into fight or flight response as a result of thinking about your trauma. Even though real danger may not be imminent, your body will act as if it is, causing ongoing stress;
- Difficulty concentrating: often due to anxiety associated with PTSD, you may find yourself struggling to concentrate on day-to-day tasks, including work, hobbies or even driving. Your memory performance may also be affected;
- Mood disorders: ongoing anxiety caused by PTSD can often manifest itself as irritability and episodes of anger, where you may lash out at the people around you or resort to self-destructive behaviour, especially if you are trying hard to hide your anger;
- Feelings of guilt or shame: you may feel guilt or shame about the incident, perhaps by blaming yourself or wondering if there was anything you could have done to prevent it;
- Avoidance: symptoms of avoidance might include trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic incident, as well as avoiding places, people or activities that remind you of what happened and cause you too much emotional pain or anxiety;
- Social anxiety: a fear of social situations can be very upsetting and greatly affect your quality of life, where PTSD and social anxiety often go together;
- Self-harm: self-destructive behaviours are not uncommon for sufferers of PTSD, where you may experience episodes of self-harm, suicidal ideation, and drug or alcohol abuse.
How much PTSD compensation am I likely to get?
Compensation cannot take away the traumatic event that you have experienced, or any ongoing symptoms, but it can make sure that you are not out of pocket, and help to ease some of the pressure so that you can focus on recovering and getting back on track.
PTSD compensation can be divided into two distinct brackets: general damages and special damages. General damages is compensation for pain, suffering and loss of amenity caused by the PTSD, where loss of amenity refers to the impact on your social life, hobbies and family life. General damages will be assessed having regard to things like your ability to cope with life, education and work; the effect on your relationships with family, friends and anyone else you come into contact with; the extent to which treatment would be successful; any future vulnerability; your prognosis; and whether medical help has been sought.
Special damages refers to any financial losses flowing from the traumatic incident and injury. These include lost earnings from time off work, both past and future, the costs of medical treatment or prescriptions, and whether you need access to specialised treatment, and the costs of any care, even if this is given to you for free by a family member.
Special damages are relatively easy to assess. However, since no monetary award can compensate an injured Claimant in any real sense for their suffering, general damages cannot easily be assessed by a process of calculation. Additionally, whilst two cases are never precisely the same, justice requires that there be consistency between awards. As such, when assessing the compensation to be awarded to a Claimant for their pain, suffering and loss of amenity, the courts will refer to the ‘Judicial College Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases’. These guidelines set out the following four brackets, based on the severity of the PTSD:
- Severe (£59,860 to £100,670): such cases will involve permanent effects preventing you from working at all, or at least from functioning at anything approaching the pre-trauma level, and all aspects of your life will be badly affected;
- Moderately severe (£23,150 to £59,860): this category is distinct from above because of a better prognosis, which will be for some recovery with professional help. However, the effects are still likely to cause you significant disability for the foreseeable future.
- Moderate:(£8,180 to £23,150) in these cases you will have largely recovered and any continuing effects will not be grossly disabling;
- Less severe (£3,950 to £8,180): in these cases you will have made a virtually full recovery within 1-2 years and only minor symptoms will persist over any longer period.
Importantly, these brackets represent guidelines only, where each assessment the court makes has to be based upon the facts of the particular case. The guidelines are also regularly updated to reflect the awards which are being made by judges, where the brackets set out above have been taken from the latest edition (16th edition/2022).
What are the requirements for a PTSD compensation claim?
In broad terms, you can claim PTSD compensation, provided that you can prove that someone else was to blame, such as another motorist or your employer. You must also be able to show, with reference to expert medical evidence, that you have been diagnosed with PTSD and that your psychiatric condition was caused by the traumatic incident.
The basic elements of any PTSD claim will therefore require you to prove:
- Liability: you must be able to establish a breach of statutory duty and/or negligence on the part of another person, where someone else is responsible for the traumatic incident
- Causation: you must be able to demonstrate a clear causal connection between the traumatic incident and the injury suffered, typically with reference to medical evidence
- Injury: there must be a specific diagnosis by an appropriate medical expert of a reactive psychiatric disorder following a traumatic incident which creates psychological trauma in response to either actual or threatened death, as well as serious injury.
This all sounds very complex, but a specialist solicitor will be able to help you navigate each of these hurdles and advise you on the merits of your claim. It is best to seek expert advice as soon as possible as, in most cases, you will only be entitled to claim compensation for PTSD if the traumatic experience causing your injury was in the past three years or, in some instances, three years from the date you became aware that negligence caused your PTSD.
How do you make a claim for PTSD compensation?
To make a claim for PTSD compensation you will need to instruct a solicitor specialising in personal injury, and with experience of dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder cases.
Your solicitor will be able to liaise with the insurers for the other side. For example, in a road traffic accident injury claim, this will be that person’s motor insurance company, whilst for an injury at work, it will be the employers’ liability insurer used by the firm you work for. Your solicitor will also be able to arrange for you to see an appropriate medical expert, such as a consultant psychiatrist, to provide a diagnosis and prognosis for your injury.
How long does a claim for PTSD compensation take?
If a case proceeds to court, this can take several months or even years. However, in most instances, a claim will be settled without the need to attend court. Insurers will often take a pragmatic view about the cost-effectiveness of litigating the matter. If liability is admitted at an early stage, the insurers will often seek an out-of-court settlement. Depending on the litigation risks, they may even make an offer where liability remains in dispute.
With the right legal advice and representation, it is possible to get compensation within a few short months, even if only by way of an interim payment pending resolution of your claim. The insurers are also often willing to fund any treatment to provide you with the best possible chance of a full recovery. This could include things like trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy or eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR). In this way, your claim for PTSD compensation can also help to support your recovery, hopefully leaving you to live the rest of your life without the effects of your trauma.
PTSD compensation claims FAQs
How much can you claim for PTSD UK?
The amount that a person can claim for PTSD will depend on the level of their symptoms and how long these symptoms are predicted to last. The more serious the symptoms, where the prognosis is bleak, the higher the compensation.
How much is PTSD worth?
Provided the Claimant can prove, with reference to expert medical evidence, that they have suffered from a reactive psychiatric disorder, they may be able to claim compensation of anything between £3,950 and as much as £100,670, depending on the severity.
When can you claim for PTSD?
An individual can claim compensation for PTSD if they have been diagnosed with a reactive psychiatric disorder in response to a traumatic experience ‘and’ their injury is as a result of someone else’s negligence or breach of duty.
What do I say to get PTSD compensation?
Any claim for PTSD compensation must be based not only your reported symptoms, but also independent medical opinion, typically from a consultant psychiatrist. Having been independently assessed, this expert will then produce a written report with their diagnosis and prognosis.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.